A family poses for a quick photograph before returning to their s'more making.
By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
With COVID-19 forcing everyone outside, public parks have been a major gathering place for people looking to see each other safely, or to fight off cabin fever by getting into open space. Making them even more enticing, many parks have created events like scavenger hunts and story walks for people to enjoy. This week, Bird Park hosted “Afternoon S'mores at the Park”, an event where families could rent out fire pits to make s'mores. But while it likely would have sold out anyway, The Trustees got some help from mother nature to really make the event a hit.
Bird Park Engagement Manager Maura O’Gara explained the nature of the event by noting, “Afternoon S'mores at the Park is an opportunity to get out and enjoy the park in winter. But it was also spurred by the pandemic, because we were particularly looking for ways people could come to the park, enjoy the park, and enjoy the company of friends and family in a COVID-safe way. This program provides that.”
Housed behind the Music Court so as to “provide something that felt kind of private,” the three fire pits and benches, which were limited to six people apiece, could be rented by the hour. With just three pits available, the event quickly sold out. But while adverse weather conditions meant Friday’s pits had to be cancelled (Saturday and Sunday moved to noon to 5 p.m. rather than 1-4 p.m. to accommodate the lost day), the snowy weather was far more of a draw than a deterrent. While not every group consisted of a family with children, the vast majority of them did. And while those kids enjoyed making and eating s'mores, as well as throwing logs onto the fire to really get it going, what they most seemed to enjoy was having a warm fire so close to the jam-packed sledding hill. While she couldn’t predict the weather, O’Gara explained she knew this would be a kid-friendly event, so it was scheduled for February vacation.
“We were also very motivated by it being February vacation. We figured for families with young children it would be an opportunity for them to do something special during vacation, and of course we always welcome those young at heart as well, who like a good s'more around the campfires. So it’s great for any age, but we definitely had February vacation in mind when we were deciding when to have the event.”
While the idea of being responsible for a bunch of strangers around a fire may be terrifying to some, O’Gara explained while this was the first time they’d ever used fire pits, they took a bunch of precautions. She also went so far as to say the event was successful enough that they will likely use the fire pits again, and have planned to do the same type of s'mores event over April vacation.
“I was inspired by other Trustee properties who have done these fire pits in different ways,” she explained. “They’ve been really successful and people have enjoyed them, so we’ve looked into seeing if we could make it work at the park - and of course we wanted to choose areas in the park that would be most safe. I spoke to the Walpole Fire Department and they had some good tips and advice, so we followed what they shared and picked out some safe places in the park, and of course staff will be there at all times, so we feel confident it will be fun and safe the whole time.”
O’Gara said with there being no snow in April, she will likely create some other type of scavenger hunt activity to have people do while making their s'mores.
“Hopefully," she hesitated before adding, "there’s no snow.”